Andrea is an ambassador who studies abroad in Italy and Greece
Major: Global Business Leadership
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
From the get-go, the Roman-Greco program was at the top of my list. I had been interested in experiencing a European lifestyle and as a Global Business Leadership major, I aspire to conduct business in Europe as my career progresses. I was drawn to Italy and Greece to experience the culture and the deep-seeded religious and political history of both places. I was excited to strengthen my faith by being amidst some of the earliest origins of the Catholic church, and to have the opportunity to experience this tradition in a new way. I have always had an appreciation for art and architecture, and the masterpieces found in Italy are among some of the most incredible in the world. Additionally, the opportunity to live in two different places makes this program unique. I soon found that there was so much to see, and double the challenges that would keep me on my toes.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
For a project we were assigned for our Greek Language and Culture class, we had the opportunity to interview a local Greek citizen. We decided to talk with Argyro, a woman who owned a bread shop near our apartment. Argyro had experienced the rollercoaster of the Greek economic crisis, and spoke about her former experience as a corporate public relations representative and the decision to completely change her career in the wake of the uncertain economic state. We chatted about everything from her career, her family, to her perception of Greek cultural traditions and the social changes she has seen throughout her life. Though she worked long hours day in and day out, she emitted a cheerful, positive aura that made every person feel welcome. She held the belief that a positive energy and good karma should be a way of life, that we owe our brothers and sisters empathy regardless of the circumstance. In her thick Greek accent, she told me, "You must concentrate your good energy, your good feeling, your love and yes, good things shall happen." I returned to ask her more about her religious beliefs for my Theology class. I was a bit apprehensive to ask because religion tends to be a taboo topic here at home, however she was more than willing to help me understand. One thing that struck me about my experience in Greece was the friendliness and helpfulness of the people; nearly everyone smiled and greeted me with a "kalimera," which means hello.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Studying abroad ultimately opened my eyes to the possibilities that this world holds. Before departing, everyone I talked to joked about the travel bug that I would inevitably catch. Lo and behold, they were right. Now that I have had a little taste of living in a foreign country, have seen my home through a new lens, and have felt the sense of adventure that I had while abroad, I crave the exploration. Another important realization I came to was that people are not as different as we perceive. I experienced many acts of kindness, often from people whose language I could not speak. Across oceans and borders, a smile is always understood!
Based on your experiences abroad, what are some of the benefits of spending a semester abroad? How has studying abroad contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development?
Our world is becoming more and more connected every day. The more experience we have with communicating, interacting, and understanding those with different backgrounds, the better. I believe that studying abroad allowed me to gain a new perspective on what really matters. Studying abroad equipped me with new skills to solve problems rapidly, especially when information is scarce, to roll with the punches when plans to now pan out, and that spontaneity allows for some of the best experiences and memories. I learned to look further than surface level to gain a true understanding, asking questions in order to learn and stay curious.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Regardless of the program you choose, you will be surrounded by beauty. For a moment, remind yourself to put down your camera and experience this beauty through your own eyes, not a lens. You will remember the whole, multifaceted experience if you are not concerned with snapping the perfect picture to upload to social media. Keep an open mind and take it all in!